House unanimously passes Wilcox bill addressing suicide rates among agricultural workers

A suicide prevention bill sponsored by Rep. J.T. Wilcox received unanimous approval in the House Tuesday.

House Bill 2671 would require the State Office of Rural Health to convene a task force on behavioral health and suicide prevention in the agricultural industry. The 16-member task force, comprised of mental health experts, staff from key state agencies, and representatives from a number of commissions, associations and other entities, would be required to issue a report by December 1, 2018 on the following:

  • Data related to the mental health status of agricultural workers
  • Factors affecting the mental health status and suicide rates of agricultural workers
  • Materials and resources to include in a suicide prevention pilot program
  • Opportunities to improve the mental health of agricultural workers and reduce the risk of suicide

Based on the recommendations of the task force, the state Department of Health would then be required to establish a pilot program in a county west of the Cascade Crest that is reliant on the agricultural industry. The pilot program would provide free counseling and suicide prevention resources.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the suicide rate among agricultural workers was five times higher than that of the general population of the United States. Newsweek also reported the suicide rate for farmers in some states was higher than the suicide rate for military veterans.

Wilcox, R-Yelm, says learning those facts and reading this article published by The Guardian in December, compelled him to introduce House Bill 2671.

“My family has farmed in the Nisqually River watershed in East Pierce and Thurston counties for more than 110 years,” said Wilcox. “I know the ups and downs that come with good seasons and bad seasons, and the daily stresses of maintaining land that has been in the family for generations. The weight of that responsibility can become unbearable, but we farmers tend to battle our own demons privately. I drafted this bill so farmers and ag industry workers wouldn't have to fight alone, and would have somewhere to turn for help. I am grateful all 98 House members declared their commitment to supporting these individuals and addressing this crisis.”

House Bill 2671 now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov